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Increasing Online Identity Fraud Highlights the Need for Consumers to
Better Protect Themselves

March 8, 2010 at 8:03 AM EST
During National Consumer Protection Week Capital One Offers Important Tips to Stay Safe from ID Theft and Fraud While Online
MCLEAN, Va., Mar 08, 2010 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- Capital One Financial Corporation (NYSE: COF) joins government agencies and national advocacy organizations in support of National Consumer Protection Week, March 7-13, 2010. This year's theme, Dollars & Sense: Rated "A" for All Ages, focuses on helping people at all stages of life become informed and empowered consumers. With consumers, from teens to seniors, increasingly using online and mobile technologies, it is important for people of all ages to know how they can steer clear of online scams and identify theft.

A recent study, which shows a significant increase in identity fraud in 2009, highlights the need for greater consumer awareness when it comes to avoiding scams and identity theft. According to the Javelin Strategy & Research 2010 Identity Fraud Survey Report, the number of identity fraud victims in the United States jumped in 2009 by 12 percent from the previous year to 11.1 million adults - the highest increase since the survey was first conducted in 2003. The survey also found an increase in computer-based crimes, indicating that thieves are increasingly taking advantage of online channels.

"For many consumers, filling out forms and providing sensitive personal information has become almost second nature, but it's important to be alert and aware of the potential risks online," said Shelley Solheim, Director of Financial Education for Capital One. "Identity theft and fraud are threats that can impact anyone - no one is immune. Know who you are dealing with online, and never give out personal information to someone you don't know."

In support of National Consumer Protection week, Capital One offers these simple tips to empower consumers of all ages to protect themselves from identity theft and reduce the risk of falling victim to online fraud.

General online safety tips

  • Keep your web browsers and operating system up to date - Most software developers release updates of their software on a regular basis that provide fixes to known problems, improve performance, and provide new functionality. In general, it's up to the user to decide if and when software should be updated or upgraded to a new release. Upgrading and keeping your software current can ensure that your system has the highest level of protection.
  • Ignore suspicious emails and never click on links asking for personal information - Watch out for emails from scammers offering to give away free money or asking for help moving a large sum of money. Another common scam involves a plea from someone claiming to be stranded in a foreign country, possibly helping a loved one, and needing your money to get back home. This scam has even been conducted through social networking sites.
  • Beware of bogus online donation scams - Following the Haiti earthquake, the FBI is advising people to be careful when evaluating donation programs related to the earthquake. Scam emails have already emerged; one was an email that purported to come from the British Red Cross soliciting donations. Be wary of people claiming to be an official or a victim asking for a donation. Instead of following a link in an email, go directly to the charity's website. And never release your personal information to someone soliciting money.

When shopping online

  • Use secure online shopping sites - To ensure that your information is protected when shopping online, look for an unbroken key or padlock at the bottom of your web browser when providing payment information. When you're asked to provide payment information, the beginning of the Web site's URL address should change from http to shttp or https, indicating that the purchase is encrypted or secured.
  • Check out the seller - Look for online merchants who are members of a seal-of-approval program that sets voluntary guidelines for privacy-related practices, such as TRUSTe (www.truste.org), Verisign (www.verisign.com), or BBBonline (www.bbbonline.org). If it's your first time on an unfamiliar site, call the seller's phone number, so you know you can reach them if you need to. If you can't find a working phone number, take your business elsewhere.
  • Use caution with social media - Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter are increasingly used by retailers to promote new deals and disseminate coupons. Unfortunately, scammers are also using these sites, often masquerading as a friend to deliver malicious links that can allow hackers to steal personal information. Keep this in mind when using social media tools and be particularly suspicious of messages or promotions you did not sign up to receive. Instead of following links, go directly to the store's website and navigate to find the special sale item.
  • Never give out your account informationor social security number - Never respond to emails or instant messages that ask you to provide account information for "verification." Don't follow links to websites in such emails either. These are known as "phishing" scams and are used to collect account information that can then be used for fraudulent purchases.
  • Consider how you'll pay - Credit cards generally are a safe option because they allow buyers to seek a credit from the issuer if the product isn't delivered or isn't what was ordered. Don't send cash or use a money-wiring service because you'll have no recourse if something goes wrong.
  • Keep your password private - Many e-commerce web sites require shoppers to log-in before viewing or placing an order. When selecting a password, do not use commonly known information, such as your name, birthdate, or numbers from your driver's license or Social Security number. You should also refrain from reusing the same password for multiple sites.
  • Choose security question answers that only you know - In addition to keeping your passwords private, also beware of security questions that help retrieve your password in the event that you forget it. Even the most trivial information - like your mother's maiden name or first pet's name - can be exploited by cybercriminals. Many of these details may seem unimportant, but they can serve as password recovery hints for email addresses or online banking accounts.
  • Keep a paper trail - Print and save records of your online transactions, including the product description and price, the online receipt, and copies of any email you exchange with the seller. Read your credit card statements as soon as you get them to make sure there aren't any unauthorized charges.
  • Use a secure computer - When you're away from home, do not save private information onto computers used by the public. If you're accessing a private account at the library or another public place, be sure to log out completely from your accounts, and do not save login information (like your username or password) on these computers.

If you think you are a victim of identity theft

  • Place a fraud alert on your credit reports- Call one of the three credit reporting agencies, TransUnion, Experian or Equifax. Report that you have been an identity theft victim and request a "fraud alert" and/or victim statement to be placed on your credit file. The company you call is required to contact the other two.
  • Close the accounts that you believe have been tampered with or opened fraudulently - Contact someone in the security or fraud department of each company, and follow up in writing.
  • File a police report - Call your local police department to file a report. List any suspects that could have committed the crime.
  • File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission - You can file a complaint with the FTC using the online complaint form, or call the FTC's Identity Theft Hotline - 1-877-ID-THEFT.

Consumers can find more information about how to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft and what to do if they do fall victim in a free guide from Capital One and national consumer advocacy and education group Consumer Action called ID Theft/Account Fraud Prevention and Clean Up - available at www.money-wise.org.

About Capital One

Capital One Financial Corporation (www.capitalone.com) is a financial holding company whose subsidiaries, which include Capital One, N.A. and Capital One Bank (USA), N.A., had $115.8 billion in deposits and $212.0 billion in total managed assets outstanding as of December 31, 2009. Headquartered in McLean, Virginia, Capital One offers a broad spectrum of financial products and services to consumers, small businesses and commercial clients. Capital One, N.A. has approximately 1,000 branch locations primarily in New York, New Jersey, Texas, Louisiana, Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. A Fortune 500 company, Capital One trades on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol "COF" and is included in the S&P 100 index.

SOURCE: Capital One Financial Corporation

Capital One
Shelley Solheim, 917-589-6203
shelley.solheim@capitalone.com